U.S. and the Taliban negotiators signed a historic agreement today on Saturday in Qatar that promises to end the most difficult 19 years of war in Afghanistan and allow President Donald Trump to begin the promised withdrawal of American troops from the land of Afghanistan.
According to the new agreement, the United States of America will begin a phased withdrawal of armed troops from Afghanistan, reducing the number to 8,600 troops from 13,000. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to sever its ties with the notorious al Qaeda, the terrorist group that was responsible for September 2001 attacks against the U.S. Pompeo said the remaining U.S. troops will serve as an attachment to ensure the Taliban lives up to its promises.
This is potentially the greatest development in US-Taliban relations ever and it most definitely will bring peace to the land of blood-shed, Afghanistan if all promises are kept with grace. This article sheds light on the details and events that led the world to see two decades most affected by terrorism and how has the world tried to – and is coping with terrorist organizations, along with Pakistan’s important role in bringing peace to Afghanistan.
Who exactly are the Taliban?
Soviet Union USSR took control of Afghanistan by force in the late 1970s. The Islamic countries of Asia – Afghanistan, Pakistan and several other western Asian countries unanimously despised and disapproved of this action taken by the USSR and directly/indirectly helped the aboriginal militant group which called itself “The Mujahideen” in its jihad against the foreign Soviet forces to protect their motherland. One’s rational thought allows one to believe that since it was the peak of Cold War, United States also helped their allies in west Asia in their fight against USSR, because they also happened to be helping the Mujahideen.
Finally after a decade long unstable and timid rule and its failed attempts to take complete and solid control of the country, the Soviet Union USSR decided to pull back its troops from Afghanistan in 1989, with their economy suffering the brunt. This later caused the collapse of USSR. With Soviets then gone, there was a battle for power within the Mujahideen, and it was soon split into warring factions. The already war torn nation, which had long hoped for peace after a decade of struggle under the Soviets, did not get to see any betterment at the hands of warring Mujahideen factions. In fact, it got only worse from there.
A voluntary rise from the native Pashtuns was seen against the uncontrollable Mujahideen, who were unable to bear the notorious activities of Mujahideen bandits who resorted to mass rape, murder and loot in the Afghan-Pakistan border areas. Mullah Omar, who till his death in 2013 was considered the Taliban supremo, was said to have fought a valiant battle with a dozen fellow villagers to drive out the bandits who had carried out mass rape and murder in his own village, even though his tiny group was heavily outnumbered by troops and arms by the bandits. His story of valour soon became a local legend and soon, many surrounding villages developed their own military forces, which gradually started to consolidate under his leadership. This newly consolidated group was The Taliban.
Taliban And September 2001 Attacks
Bin Laden, the head of Taliban then, provided leadership and financial support, and was involved in selecting participants for the terrorist activity. Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, moved to Afghanistan in 1996 as it came under the rule of the Taliban. Bin Laden, a wealthy founder of al Qaeda from Saudi Arabia, had previously fought in the Soviet-Afghan war in the previous decades along with the mujahideen fighters who would later form the Taliban. Both Taliban and al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks which resulted in the death of almost 3000 people including the terrorists and some 25,000 citizens injured, some severely.
America’s Reaction to 9/11
Two years after the September 2001 attacks, in March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and deposed President Saddam Hussein. Although not directly linked to the terrorist activities, Hussein was suspected of producing and funding weapons of mass destruction (although none were ever found). The invasion was a key part of America’s newly launched War on Terror, under the leadership of President George W. Bush. The State Department, in a memo-gram dated September 14, demanded that the Taliban surrender all known al-Qaeda associates and acquaintances in Afghanistan, provide intelligence on Osama bin Laden and his affiliates, and eliminate all terrorists from Afghanistan. On September 18, the director of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, Mahmud Ahmed conveyed these American demands to Mullah Omar and the senior Taliban leadership, whose response was “not denial on all points”. Mahmud reported back that the Taliban leadership was in “deep introspection” and was waiting for the recommendation of a grand council of religious clerics that was assembling to decide the matter once and for all. On September 20, President Bush, in an address to Congress, demanded the Taliban deliver Osama bin Laden and other suspected terrorists and destroy all the al-Qaeda bases “These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.”
US Invasion In Afghanistan
Fifteen days after the 9/11 attack, the US covertly infiltrated the Afghani soil and dropped seven or eight members of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and Counter Terrorism Center (CTC), led by Gary Schroen, into the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul. They formluated the Northern Afghanistan Liaison Team, known by the call-sign ‘Jawbreaker’, a team composed of former special operations, communication and language experts. They brought three cardboard boxes filled with $3 million in $100 bills to buy support and armaments. Jawbreaker linked up with General Abdul Rashid Dostum, head of the Northern Alliance, and prepared the way for the introduction of Army Special Forces into the region. The Jawbreaker team brought satellite communications, enabling the live transmission of its intelligence reports to headquarters staff at Langley and Central Command (CENTCOM), who were responsible for Operation Crescent Wind and Operation Enduring Freedom.
A change of coping mechanism occurred within the Obama administration in 2010 to allow possible political negotiations to solve the war. The Taliban themselves had refused to speak to the Afghan government many a times, portraying them as an American puppet and a facade. Sporadic efforts for peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban occurred afterwards, and it was reported in October 2010 that Taliban leadership commanders had left their safe haven in Pakistan and been safely escorted to Kabul by NATO aircraft for talks, with complete assurance that NATO staff would not interrogate or tease them. On November 23, 2010, it was reported that supposed talks with Akhtar Mansour, a senior Taliban commander, was actually an impostor.
Karzai confirmed in June 2011 that secret negotiations were being held between the U.S. and the Taliban, but it was reported that these collapsed by August 2011. Another effort for talks was canceled in March 2012, followed by another and more notable effort that was abruptly canceled in June 2013 following a civil dispute between the Afghan government and the Taliban regarding the latter’s opening of a political office in Qatar. President Karzai of Afghanistan being the political head of the soil, accused the Taliban of portraying themselves as a government in exile. In January 2016, Pakistan hosted a round of four-way talks with Afghan, Chinese and American officials, but the Taliban did not attend. It was reported in October 2016 that the Taliban had held informal talks with the Afghan government.
Pakistan’s Crucial Role in Peace Process
PM Imran Khan has always been of the view that there can never be a military or forceful solution in Afghanistan. He had always argued that, and fortunately, he says, now the Trump administration realizes it too, that the “war on terror” has had been too long with thousands of lives lost and nothing fruitful, and a peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban is the way to go. He treats this as vindication of his long-time argument, referring to when he was often called “Taliban Khan.” The world is now realizing the fact that Imran Khan’s vision of a peace agreement and a mutual settlement is the only way out of blood-shed.
Three months after President Donald Trump abruptly called off peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, the United States was all set to resume the dialogue process with the insurgent groups in Doha. The healthy development came as US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, on his way to Doha, made a surprise stopover in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday to take the Afghan government into confidence over Washington’s decision to restart the stalled peace process. Pakistan, which facilitated the 9-month long painstaking peace process in Doha, pushed for the resumption of talks since it believes that use of force by either side would not resolve the lingering conflict.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has welcomed the signing of historic peace agreement between the United States and Afghan Taliban, while awaring all stakeholders to not let the spoilers sabotage the peace efforts.
We welcome the Doha Accord signed between US & the Taliban.This is the start of a peace & reconciliation process to end decades of war & suffering of the Afghan people. I have always maintained that a pol solution, no matter how complex, is the only meaningful path to peace.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) February 29, 2020
He said the peace agreement reflected a bold step forward by the US and the Taliban in advancing the ultimate aim of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and the affiliated region.